Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Now everyone under 65 can get H1N1 vaccine

Idaho public health officials have decided to open up the H1N1 swine flu vaccine to everyone under age 65 immediately, including healthy adults. This after vaccines through the season thus far have been limited to specific high-risk groups; the flu strain has contributed to the deaths of 17 Idahoans so far. Click below for details from the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare. People 65 and over will be able to get the vaccine in the coming weeks, the department said.

Idaho ‘nowhere near’ on H1N1 vaccine goals

So far, Idaho has been allocated 165,200 doses of H1N1 swine flu, state epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn reported to lawmakers this morning. Normally, about a third of the state’s 1.5 million residents are vaccinated for seasonal flu. Hahn said even if that were the goal - and the state would like to vaccinate many more residents than that - “we are nowhere near.”

Flu impacts Idaho schools

Idaho education officials are bracing for a raft of waiver requests from school districts that have seen student attendance suffer from the flu - and don’t want the drop in attendance to hurt their district’s state funding. Idaho bases its funding allocation to districts for the first half of the year on average daily attendance reports for the first seven weeks of school - the very time when the H1N1 flu, in many cases, has dramatically impacted school attendance. That attendance report also affects school staffing levels for the year.

“We did spike about a week ago - we had a couple schools that had up to 25 and 30 percent absentee,” said Coeur d’Alene School District Superintendent Hazel Bauman. Attendance is now back up, she said, but “it has reached that threshold … We will be submitting a request for a waiver.” So will Post Falls, Lakeland, and Meridian schools and many more. Melissa McGrath, spokeswoman for the Idaho State Department of Education, said such waiver requests normally are very rare. The department typically receives only about one a year, usually driven by an early snow day or some such unusual event. This year, however, it’s already received one request, from the South Lemhi School District in eastern Idaho (for a “significant drop in attendance as a result of the flu” for two weeks in October), and it’s heard from many more than have them in the works. You can read my full story here at

Coming swine flu regulations…

Good morning, Netizens…

Now that President Obama has declared Swine Flu an emergency priority, here are some things our government might do to prepare us for the coming Apocalypse.

Ban all pig feed lots, mud bogs and other places where pigs do those gross and nasty things that pigs do while smacking their porcine lips and leering speculatively at you through their white eyelashes.

Warn nation’s children to stay away from all swine, either two-legged or four-legged, but especially the latter.

If your ham hocks become infected during dinner, build a tall wall of mashed potatoes to prevent contamination of your peas.

Distribute both real flu shots to all government employees and Fortune 500 employees. Everyone else can stand in lines and wait until more shots are available or die waiting.

Check all pig visas to see if they have been traveling to other countries. They don’t have a visa? Tell them to get a Master Card or else deport them.

Remind citizens that the swine flu emergency gives you the perfect excuse to ignore relative’s requests for a Thanksgiving or Christmas get-togethers.

Create a high-level government cooperative involving all aspects of the federal government in case the crap really hits the fan.


Back from the depths of the flu…

Well, that was pretty awful. I don’t know if the H1N1 is really worse than seasonal flu, because I’ve gotten a flu shot every year for at least the past 10 and haven’t had the seasonal flu. But I sure don’t remember anything quite this bad. Worst part: The first night, with the fever, chills and aches. I feel fortunate to be done with it in less than a week; I’ve heard of others suffering longer. Thing that helped the most: Sipping ice water. Constantly. And sleep. So out of it I didn’t even turn on the computer for three days! Glad to be returned to health and back in the land of the living; still taking it a bit easy.

Idaho orders first H1N1 vaccines

Today was the first day the National Centers for Disease Control accepted orders for H1N1 flu vaccine, and Idaho got its order in - for 9,000 doses. They’re expected to start arriving early next week, going directly to hospitals, community health centers and public health districts. State epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn said, “There is going to be a very limited supply of H1N1 vaccine available during the first weeks of shipments, so initially vaccination will not be widely available to everyone recommended to receive it. Eventually, we hope there will be enough for everyone who wants to be vaccinated.” First priority will go to pregnant women, children, health care workers and people at high risk because of other medical conditions.

BSU has its first swine flu case confirmed

Boise State University has confirmed its first swine flu case, in a student living in the dorms. They’ve got a long way to go, of course, to catch up to WSU at Pullman, which has the biggest campus outbreak in the nation with 2,500 cases/More here at Eye on Boise

Question: Will you get flu shots this year?

BSU confirms first swine flu case

Boise State University has confirmed its first case of H1N1 flu, or swine flu, and the patient is a student who lives in the residence halls. “Most cases to date have been mild and people have recovered quickly,” the university reports; BSU also is in the midst of a campaign to help faculty, staff, students and the community cope with the flu season and prevent infection. Click below to read their full announcement. This after Washington State University in Pullman made headlines last week with the nation’s highest number of campus swine flu cases, at 2,500 - more than a third of the college student cases nationwide. Learn more about swine flu, its symptoms, and how to prevent infection here at

No one’s definition of fun: Swine flu outbreak at Idaho prison

Did you know that the influenza virus can survive on surfaces for two to eight hours, spreading the disease? That’s what the CDC says, and the warden of Idaho’s privately operated prison, Phillip Valdez of the Idaho Correctional Center, says he has no “no idea how we got it” at the prison south of Boise, where at least 13 inmates have been sickened so far with the H1N1 virus - swine flu - and all visitors and volunteers have been shut out for at least two weeks. “You know, I wish we could pinpoint it - it sure would make it easier,” Valdez told Eye on Boise. “But I think, to be honest with you, we’re all susceptible to it. You and I could go to a Wal-Mart store, shake a hand, touch a doorknob.” The ICC has been sanitized with cleaning chemicals from top to bottom, inmates have been educated about hygiene, and Valdez says none of the sickened inmates thus far has suffered complications. All those with the virus have suffered from high fevers that peaked on the third day; all have been quarantined.

At the ICC, which is operated for the state by Correctional Corp. of America, there are beds for 1,805 Idaho inmates, including 708 in open dormitories, in which 59 inmates share a single large dorm unit filled with bunk beds. Others are housed in two-man cells. Before the ICC outbreak was first reported July 14, one inmate at the South Idaho Correctional Institution Community Work Center, a state-operated facility also located south of Boise, tested positive for the swine flu virus in late June. That inmate was moved to an isolation unit. You can read my full story here from Saturday’s Spokesman-Review.

The reality of Swine Flu Virus…

Good evening, Netizens…

David Horsey’s cartoon pretty much has Swine Flu Virus pegged.

Unless one has actually caught Swine Flu, you never really have respect for it. It’s just like the flu, you feel like a Mac truck just rolled over you on the concrete sidewalk, you have a low-grade fever, you have a cough like a pack-a-day smoker and simply want a place to hide. Of course, some people who caught the Swine Flu died, but fortunately the percentages are low.

But it is infectious, having migrated to nearly every country in the world, and it is spreading fairly rapidly.

So what is a pandemic?

It must meet three criteria:

It must be the emergence of a disease new to a population, and;

The agent infects humans causing serious illness, and ;

The agent must spread easily and quickly among humans.

You might think from the manner in which the word pandemic is bandied around it is much worse than it actually is. At least for now.


Briefs: Swine Flu Dogs NI Visitors

A group visiting Bonner and Boundary counties from out of state includes one person with a confirmed case of H1N1 influenza and seven people with possible H1N1 flu. The group of more than 100 people has been active in communities in both counties since early June. A woman in her 20s with the group became ill last week and tested positive for the Influenza A virus. That test was sent to the Idaho State Laboratory in Boise, which confirmed Thursday the virus was Novel H1N1. Over the weekend, seven more group members tested positive for the Influenza A virus and their tests were sent to the state lab for confirmation of H1N1. Those results will be available by mid week/Cynthia Taggart, Panhandle Health District. More here.

2 More Cases Of NIdaho Swine Flu

The Idaho State Laboratory confirmed the fourth and fifth cases of Novel H1N1 (swine) influenza in the five northern counties this week, reinforcing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s message that the virus continues to spread. The latest cases are in women in their 20s. Both are recovering without hospitalization. One of the women lives in Kootenai County and recently traveled to Seattle. The other is a visitor to Bonners Ferry. She is isolating herself until she’s no longer contagious. Panhandle Health District (PHD) is monitoring both patients’ contacts for signs of flu symptoms and is working with the medical community and local governments to control spread as much as possible/Cynthia Taggart, Panhandle Health District. More here.

Easy for them to say

When swine flu was all the rage last week, hardly an hour went by without some well-meaning organization sending “tips” to avoid the flu and how to handle it if you got it.

Most of them were pretty standard stuff your mom always told you, like wash your hands and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Then there was the typical advice from the Human Resources Department: If you’re feeling sick, stay home from work to avoid infecting co-workers.

Great advice, coming as it was from people who mostly get paid for a sick day or two if they have to stay home from work. But not everyone gets paid sick days, a group calling itself the Fairness Initiative on Low Wage Work notes.

And they’re right. It was sort of like Vice President Joe Biden counseling people not to get on planes…he gets to go everywhere on Air Force One, so what does he care?

That could change under federal legislation that would require companies to offer employees up to seven days a year of pay if they have to stay home to recover from their own ills or to take care of a sick child. It’s going to be trotted out at a Washington, D.C., press conference on Thursday.

But even the so-called Healthy Families Act isn’t likely to cover everyone. Last year’s bill, which failed to get a vote in either house of Congress, limited the rule to companies with 15 or more employees. Seems like the smaller companies would be the ones most likely to be unable to offer sick days.

CDC Confirms Local Swine Flu Case

Item: CDC confirms one swine flu case in Idaho: 10 more probable cases reported in Washington/SR, AP

More Info: According to the Panhandle Health District, the woman became ill after a recent trip to Texas. She has been recovering at home. The woman, who represents the first confirmed case of swine flu in Idaho, is retired and has had limited contact with other people since she began feeling ill, health district officials said. Spokane Health District spokeswoman Julie Graham said Sunday there has been no such confirmation for the two probable cases in Spokane County.

Question: Are you more/less concerned about the swine flu outbreak today than you were a week ago?

Swine flu hysteria…

Good afternoon, Netizens…

This time of year, Cancun, Mexico is typically bustling with touristas. Compare that mental image to this picture shot yesterday.

Is this hysteria we see unfolding before the National News Media? What about the people in Mexico who have died of Swine Flu Virus? Are more people here in the United States going to die of Swine Flu? There are a lot more questions and even a tinge of hysteria in the News Media about Swine Flu that perhaps do not apply to health care in the United States.

Adela María Gutiérrez fell ill in the beginning of April with what she thought was a bad cold. She tried aspirin, antibiotics, bed rest and moist towels, but nothing brought down her soaring fever, reduced her aches and pains, or boosted her energy level.

It would be more than a week before Mrs. Gutiérrez, a mother of daughters ages 10, 17 and 20, went to Oaxaca’s General Hospital, where she arrived listless and barely able to breathe, her extremities blue from a lack of oxygen. Thus, because she waited to get medical assistance, she became the first victim of Swine Flu (H1N1) to die. The mindset in Mexico seems to be, according to various medical sources, that you wait until you have tried everything else before you go see the doctor. That, rather than hysteria, may be why people are dying of the latest variant of Type A flu.

Furthermore, Mexico’s public health budget is approximately 3% of their gross domestic product — within the range of spending by other major Latin American economies, but well below the rate in developed countries such as the United States. Mexico has only about half as many hospital beds per capita than the United States. Hospital overcrowding in Mexico is common everywhere you look and sometimes medical help is hard to get.

In an acknowledgment that Mexicans frequently act as their own doctors, the government’s announcements, played repeatedly on the radio, advise people not to self-medicate and instead to seek out medical attention.

There is a lot of confusion about H1N1 flu virus, but several facts stand out rather clear: disease forecasting — like weather forecasting — is more of a guide to what might happen rather than a certain prediction of what will happen. Of course we remember how people ignored the hurricane warnings that preceded Katrina, don’t we?

Heed the warnings, but be shy about accepting hysteria. (Portions New York Times)


Why You Shouldn’t Worry About the Swine Flu

  As the media reports more and more on the swine flu, Americans are getting more and more scared. Some schools have been closed, and germaphobics everywhere are on lockdown. What the media has failed to report on, however, is that the swine flu really isn’t any more dangerous than the regular flu. According to, “atotal of 86 influenza-associated deaths were reported during the 2007-08 influenza season.” Most of these deaths were comprised of very young children, the elderly, and others with compromised immune systems. So far, only one person has died from the swine flu, and those in the most danger are the same as those in danger from the regular influenza. 

  I’m not saying that you shouldn’t not be worried about the swine flu, or try to keep yourself from getting it. You just don’t need to worry about dying from it. The main danger from influenza is dehydration, a problem that can be solved with an IV and a doctor’s care. If you have more questions about the swine flu, check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Key Facts page. 

Probably Swine Flu Case In K-County

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KJRB and PHD’s Taggart re: local swine flu case

A Kootenai County woman in her 60s who recently traveled to Texas has become the first probable case of H1NI (swine) flu sent by the Idaho State Laboratory to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation. The woman is recovering and did not require hospitalization, according to the Panhandle Health District. “This is a strong reminder to everyone of the importance of practicing respiratory etiquette and good hygiene to protect themselves and others,” said Lora Whalen, director of Family and Community Health for the Panhandle Health District/Huckleberries Online. PHD news release here.

Joe Biden’s ill-advised comment

VP Biden handed out some alarmist advice this morning on the "Today Show" regarding swine flu. Now he's back-pedaling. And to think some people wanted to flip that ticket. Sure glad the cool customer is the president.

Did he get it right the first time? Or is this another example of speaking before thinking?


Thursday video: Veep flu advice

Vice President Joe Biden offers suggestions on avoiding the swine flu on Thursday’s “Today Show.”

Spokane Man Likely Has Swine Flu

Item: Swine flu has likely arrived: In Washington: Spokane resident, back from California, among six probable cases/John Stucke, Jonathan Brunt, and Sara Leaming, SR

More Info: A Spokane man in his 40s is among six Washington state residents who probably have swine flu, health officials said Wednesday night. The officials have been unable to interview the man, who hasn’t returned their phone calls. They don’t know if he is married or has children in local schools. Three of the other likely infected state residents are in King County, and two are in Snohomish County. There have been no confirmed cases of swine flu in Idaho

Question: Does the probability that a Spokane man has swine flu heighten your concern about the spreading health threat?